BMW 1 Series Convertible review
Summertime means an excuse to test open-topped cars, such as this 118d Convertible.
Shane O' Donoghue
Shane O' Donoghue
Pics by Max Earey

Published on August 3, 2011

Ah, there's nothing like a convertible in summer. That is unless you're in Ireland and it's summer 2011, henceforth to be known as 'the wet one where nobody had any money'. Still, at least this version of the revised BMW 1 Series Convertible won't cost much to run.

Inside & Out: 7/10

Although BMW gave the 1 Series Convertible a makeover earlier this year you'd be hard-pushed to notice it. This M Sport version even wears the same alloys as a Coupé I had on long term test several years ago. Apparently the shapes of the front lights and bumper are altered to reduce drag and the rear lights have a new 'signature'. Regardless, the 1 Series Convertible is probably the most elegant body style in the range, though it's dating now. As I write this the all-new 1 Series hatchback is being launched so it'll only be a matter of time before there's a new Convertible too.

Inside, the current Convertible is a typical BMW. It's well made and the switchgear is tactile to use. However, there are a few tacky pieces of body-coloured plastic on our test car I'd do without. In terms of practicality, the boot's a usable size and there is a modest amount of storage space in the cabin, but rear seat passengers are not well catered for. Best to think of the back seats as additional luggage room.

Engine & Transmission: 8/10

BMW is very much at the top of its game in terms of engines - and this mid-range diesel is no different. It has plenty of power and torque to make the Convertible feel quick enough, yet it's all easily controlled. More surprisingly, the 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine doesn't sound like it's diesel at all when you're on the move. At a standstill, the stop-start system reduces the amount of time you have to listen to a diesel idling.

The six-speed manual gearbox has well-spaced ratios to match the engine and though the shift can be a little notch-like at times it's undeniably mechanical feeling and sporty because of that.

Ride & Handling: 9/10

We've criticised BMW M Sport suspension in the past for being just too uncompromising on our rubbish road surfaces, but the 1 Series Convertible seems to cope - even with M Sport bits. It's very agile and has that satisfying rear-drive feel to it. Hard-core driving nuts will want more go, but for the target market this 118d version is spot on. The brakes are good too, though we feel that the steering could have a little more life in it.

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: 6/10

Extras on this car bring it from about €39,000 to nearly €45,000: leather is the most expensive of those and the most important one at €1,726, but Bluetooth prep is €932! USB is extra too, which seems a bit skimpy. However, the cheapest BMW 3 Series Convertible is €50,000 so there's still a big gap. The cheapest 1 Convertible is just over €35,000 - the petrol-powered 118i. We reckon that the few convertible buyers there are will still prefer petrol to diesel, despite higher annual road tax. It's worth pointing out that the equivalent Audi A3 Cabriolet is cheaper, though perhaps dumpier to look at and not as good to drive.

Overall: 7/10

While lovely to drive and nice to own, this generation of BMW 1 Series Convertible is now out of date since the hatchback has been replaced, it's actually quite expensive and not very well equipped. Shame, because it's charming in its own way.

Key Facts:

  • Base price of BMW 1 Series Convertible: €35,240
  • Price of test vehicle: €44,666 (including €5,126 of options)
  • Engine: 2.0-litre turbodiesel
  • Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
  • Body style: two-door convertible
  • Rivals: Audi A3 Cabriolet, Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet
  • CO2 emissions: 127g/km (Band B, €156 per annum)
  • Combined consumption: 4.8 litres/100km (58.9mpg)
  • Power: 143hp at 4,000rpm
  • Torque: 300Nm at 1,750 - 2,500rpm